Saturday 24 September 2016

Richard Branson to use Boeing 747 to launch rockets into space

Andrew Trotman

Published 04/12/2015 | 11:48

Sir Richard Branson has revealed that he plans to launch commercial rockets into space using a Boeing 747-400.

  • Go To

Virgin Galactic, the billionaire's space transport company, unveiled the aircraft, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, on Thursday after buying it from Sir Richard's airline.

An artist's impression of a 747 jumbo jet which will be adapted for use as a launchpad for a Virgin Galactic. The plane has been nicknamed Cosmic Girl.

An artist's impression of a 747 jumbo jet which will be adapted for use as a launchpad for a Virgin Galactic. The plane has been nicknamed Cosmic Girl.

The decision means Virgin can send payloads, such as satellites, into space from anywhere in the world, rather than being restricted to launchpads - as NASA shuttles are. "Air launch enables us to provide rapid, responsive service to our satellite customers on a schedule set by their business and operational needs, rather than the constraints of national launch ranges,” said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic chief executive.

“Selecting the 747 airframe provides a dedicated platform that gives us the capacity to substantially increase our payload to orbit without increasing our prices.”

Cosmic Girl will replace WhiteKnightTwo for commerical missions. However, WhiteKnightTwo will still be used as the mothership for SpaceShipTwo, which will take tourists into space.

The SpaceShipTwo programme has been put on hold since an accident in the Mojave Desert last year, in which co-pilot Michael Alsbury lost his life during a test flight of the space craft.

Virgin have enough confidence in Cosmic Girl to double the payloads on launches to 200kg, although executives believe it can handle 400kg.

The company also hailed the 747's "large and robust rocket carrying capacity, operational flexibility, long range, ability to operate in many kinds of weather, as well as years of existing 747-400 experience, maintenance, and spare parts supply chains".

The LauncherOne rocket, which will take satellites into space, will be mounted to Cosmic Girl under the left wing, adjacent to the position that has been used by other 747s to ferry a fifth engine.

Sir Richard said: “The Boeing 747 has a very special place in my heart: we began service on my first airline, Virgin Atlantic, with just one leased 747. I never imagined that today one of our 747s would get a second chance and help open access to space. I’m absolutely thrilled that Cosmic Girl can stay in the Virgin family - and truly live up to her name.” 

Telegraph.co.uk

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in Business